04/21/1847 - Crockett
Date: April 21, 1847
On the Platte River, Nebraska:
The weather was cloudy and cooler. The ox wagons started their journey on the trail at 7:30 a.m. The horse teams left two hours later. At 8:55 a.m., an Indian appeared on a mound about five miles ahead, mounted on a pony. He went out of sight and then came back and approached the pioneers at full speed. He was greeted warmly and soon seven others approached on foot from some timber about a mile to the left. They went from wagon to wagon, shaking hands as the pioneers passed, and said "How de do!" About two miles later, a wheel on one of Heber C. Kimball's wagons fell off and some of the wagons halted for fifteen minutes while it was repaired.
At 10 a.m., they reached a fork in the road. Brigham Young consulted with James Case, who had worked in this area for the government during the past summer. The road on the left led to the new Pawnee Indian Village, the one of the right bypassed the village and headed up the Loup Fork, toward the Pawnee Mission which had been sacked by the Sioux in June. They chose to take the road to the right. At 12:25 p.m., the pioneers came within sight of the new Pawnee Indian Village, on both sides of the Loup Fork. It consisted of nearly one hundred lodges made from skins, close together, in several neat rows.
Peter Sarpy, from Trader's Point, was in the village bartering for their buffalo robes in a new trading post. Wilford Woodruff wrote, "We drove on by the villages & they soon began to sally out to come to us. We camped in a half moon, the bank of the river forming a parallel line in front. The Indians to the number of about 200 on the south side of the river came down to the shore. Some waded over. About 75 came into camp including the grand Chief of the Nation with many war Chiefs." Levi Jackman described the Indians: "The Pawnees are much fairer complexioned than most other Indians. They had their heads shaved with the exception of a strip about two inches wide from a little back of their foreheads to the back of their necks and that was about two inches long and stuck straight up resembling a rooster's comb. Their dress was a breach clout and a buffalo skin or robe, a blanket to throw over their shoulders. Some had leggings."
Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball gave them some gifts, but they were not satisfied. Erastus Snow wrote: "President Young proposed to shake hands and part in friendship, but he refused, and appeared very angry. Upon inquiring into the cause of his passion, he stated, through his interpreter, that the heap (presents) was too little. . . . He said we would kill and drive away their buffalo, and that we should go back." The brethren ignored their threats and continued the journey at 2 p.m., traveling northwest, up the Loup Fork -- a large stream that empties into the Platte River. Soon a severe thunderstorm rolled in and the rain fell in torrents for thirty minutes. After about ten more miles, they established their next camp on the Loup Fork, north of Looking Glass Creek. William Clayton wrote: "The country is beautiful and pleasing to the eye of the traveler, although you can only see one kind of scenery for several days."
At sundown, the bugle was sounded, calling the men to a meeting. Stephen Markham organized a huge detail to stand guard during the night. They were deeply concerned about the Indian threat and believed that the traders and Missourians were stirring up the Indians against the pioneers. Fifty men would stay up during the first half of the night, and fifty would guard the camp during the early morning hours. The cannon was prepared for action. Small companies of picket guards were stationed away from the camp with mules to help them detect any approach by the Indians. It was a "bitter cold" night. As Wilford Woodruff stood guard, he rolled himself up in a buffalo skin for protection against the rain and wind. Erastus Snow recorded: "The Indian fires we saw all around us and near our camp opposite on the south side of the Loup Fork, but a few guns and other demonstrations let them know that we were on hand."
Papillion River, west of Winter Quarters, Nebraska:
Alpheus Cutler, W. W. Phelps, Daniel Spencer, and Cornelius P. Lott went to the Omaha Indian camp, on the Papillion River. They first met with Indian Agent, John Miller and then entered the camp to meet with Indian Chief Big Elk. Daniel Spencer spoke thirty minutes, explaining the Saints' grievances. Big Elk admitted that the young braves were killing the Saints' cattle, but countered with a complaint that the Saints had destroyed the Omaha's timber. "You can't raise up our timber, can't raise up our dead men; so, you are the aggressors." Big Elk complained that the Saints had still not left his lands. Brother Spencer explained that the government had taken 500 of their men for the Mormon Battalion. Big Elk responded: "If your father the great president [Polk] imploy 500 men to fight his battle let him appropriate your lands. We don't pay his debts." The Indian Agent, John Miller, was of no help. He told the Omahas that they were justified, especially if the Mormons did not deliver corn they had promised. Big Elk stated that the Mormons could stay on the land if they hauled their corn. He said he would stop his braves from stealing the cattle.
Winter Quarters, Nebraska:
It was an exciting day for Mary Richards. She delivered several gifts to her family, sent by her missionary husband, Samuel W. Richards. Her tent was busy all day as people called to see the gifts she had received in the trunk from England. She enjoyed reading Samuel's letters over and over again to her friends and family. Her sister-in-law Jane, invited her to come to her home, where recently returned missionary Joseph Cain, was visited. "He stayed about an hour we had another good talk with him about Samuel and F[ranklin] and he seemed to take pleasure in talking to us about them."
Summer Quarters, Nebraska:
At 5:30 a.m., a war party of forty Omaha Indians rushed down upon the camp and made angry signs that the settlers were tilling their land. They demanded a beef steer. When the ten brethren refused, three of the Indians were sent to shoot and butcher a beef. John D. Lee ran into their midst with a long pole and warned them if they did shoot any cattle, he would kill "every devil of them." When the chief saw that Brother Lee was serious, he stopped the three men and held out his hand in friendship. They promised peace and said they were in pursuit of the Sioux. Brother Lee gave them some bread and gun powder as a token of peace. Later, after the Indians left, it was discovered that they had killed seven cattle the day before, and that they were killing cattle daily near Winter Quarters.
Reuben Miller wrote a letter to Brigham Young asking for him to support Brother Miller's personal mission to combat the apostate Strangite movement. "Brother Young, my object is to do good and be useful in the day and generation in which I live, magnify my priesthood, and assist to build up the kingdom of God, and truly as far as in me lies be a servant of the Lord. Therefore I consider it right to use all honorable means to redeem the Saints from the spiritual darkness in which the devil has thrown them and bring them back to the true fold and the principles of immortal glory." Brother Miller asked for direction and reported that the Strangites were planning a mission to England, to lead away more of the Saints. Brother Miller (who had for a time followed after James J. Strang and then returned to the Church) wished to publish a full account of Strang's secret ceremonies. [When this letter finally reached the Twelve, Willard Richards wrote a firm reply asking Brother Miller to stop wasting his time and to return home to the Saints.]
Lyman Shurtliff landed at Keokuk and arranged with a member of the Church to take the goods he had collected to the poor at Garden Grove. Brother Shurtliff wrote: "While he was preparing, I went to Nauvoo and found two letters from my folks. They were well and got along better than I expect for which I felt thankful. Most of the city of Nauvoo was deserted. It was without house or inhabitant. No home or fence or any improvement marked my home except the cellar over which one year ago a good brick house stood. This is all that was now left to mark the place of my labors for six years.
"The little group of young trees at my place still remained in which the grave of my wife and child was made manifest by a rock which I placed deep in the earth on end, rising above the surface to mark the place of their remains. I felt sorrowful to see the destruction of so many years of labor of the persecuted Saints. Hundreds of buildings were torn down and taken away. With feelings much better felt than described, I turned from the view for the fourth time bidding adieu to all things dear and interesting to me in the once beautiful Nauvoo."
Mormon Battalion, at Los Angeles, California:
Paymaster Jeremiah Cloud returned from Monterey with gold to pay the battalion. The men were anxious at the thought of finally being paid again.
Source: 150 Years Ago Today ©These materials have been created by David R. Crockett. Copies of these materials may be reproduced for teacher and classroom use. When distributing these materials, credit must be given to David R. Crockett. These materials may not be published, in whole or part, or in any other format, without the written permission of Mr. Crockett, Tucson Az, email@example.com.
- Watson, ed., Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 540
- Howard Egan's Diary, Pioneering the West, 26-7
- Wilford Woodruff's Journal 3:154-55
- Bagley, ed., The Pioneer Camp of the Saints, 126-27
- "Excerpts from the hitherto unpublished Journal of Horace K. Whitney," Improvement Era, 50:204
- Appleton Milo Harmon Goes West, 17
- Erastus Snow Journal Excerpts, Improvement Era 14:818
- William Clayton's Journal, 85-88
- Jenson, Day By Day With the Utah Pioneers, 17
- Levi Jackman Autobiography, typescript, BYU-S, p.27
- Richard Lloyd Anderson, BYU Studies, Vol. 8, No. 3, p.287
- Stephen F. Pratt; BYU Studies Vol. 24, No. 3, pg.376
- Ward, ed., Winter Quarters, The 1846-1848 Life Writings of Mary Haskin Parker Richards, 120
- Kelly, ed., Journals of John D. Lee, 1846-1847 and 1859, 154-55
- Luman Shurtliff Autobiography, typescript, BYU-S, p.73-74
- Journal of Henry Standage in Frank Alfred Golder, The March of the Mormon Battalion, 218